Hello. I went away, and did not tell anyone because I thought to myself "I'll have plenty of time to put some posts together in the evenings," which was not true. I should just admit to myself that sometimes I am actually on vacation. Anyway, on with talking about things.
2/24/2013 – Michigan 71, Illinois 58 – 23-4, 10-4 Big Ten
I did not have the privilege of taking in the Dan Dakich Trollganza, since I had no audio. I may have missed some things. Thing I didn't miss: Dakich's Trollrankings having Illinois in front of Michigan despite Michigan having beat them by 74 at Assembly earlier this year.
That's just cheap heat; I bet Doris turned him down and now he's taking out his anger at any available target. Doris, why?
Photos. From Eric Upchurch.
Trey Burke is kind of good, and in this one he was kind of Deshaun Thomas. On the one hand, Burke had a game that will rank with his statistical best no matter when he leaves: 26 points on 15 shot equivalents, eight assists, and the obligatory solitary turnover. Commence the waving of flags and blasting of trumpets.
On the other hand, where did everyone else go? Robinson and Hardaway edged into double digits, Stauskas was 0-fer, and the supporting scoring was a step back. I guess this is mostly Stauskas's off night, as if he gets off his requisite ten this is not even a conversation; as it was, Michigan still managed 1.15 PPP. To me that largely seemed like…
Illinois did not prevent Michigan from getting into transition. Doing that was always going to be difficult since Illinois relies on jumpers so much, and the Illini exacerbated their usual slate of ready-made breakaways off of long rebounds with a ton of open-court turnovers. Though turnovers were nearly equal—Illinois 13, Michigan 10—Michigan tripled Illinois's steals with 9, and it seemed like every one of those
- came at a junction where Illinois was pressing to extend their lead to an unmanageable distance or fight their way back into the game, and
- led to an uncontested layup.
Thus a 61% shooting night from two and Robinson's customary 5/6 line on which most of his makes required no dribbles. Burke, too, had two or three freebie layups. Those transition opportunities provided most of the distance between Michigan's twos and Illinois's twos, so provided most of the final margin in a game statistically even otherwise.
It's back: post-half run. Hypothesis about beating people with half-time adjustments took some hits over the ugly four-game run earlier, but it was golden in this one as Michigan went from down 31-28 to up 43-34 over the course of the first five minutes of the second half.
This did not compare to Michigan's blitz a few minutes later. Illinois hit a three to bring it to within four and then suffered a four-minute barrage spurred by those open-court turnovers. When it was over they were down 17 and it was all over but the pointless timeouts.
Morgan's defense: ninja impact. McGary started and after Michigan gave up 11 quick points Horford got a crack; those two alternated until Michigan found itself down eight with eight minutes left, whereupon Morgan came in. Morgan would play 17 of the remaining 28 minutes; Michigan would outscore the Illini by 21 in that time. Morgan's first stretch of PT from around 8 minutes to around 4 was a big chunk of that, as Michigan went on a 13-3 run on which the Illinois points were a Tyler Griffey free throw off of a GRIII foul and an unassisted Nnanna Egwu jumper. I know that's Morgan's man but like okay.
Morgan suffered the banked end-of-half three, and then came in a minute into the second half when McGary picked up a third foul. This was of course the second-half run; by the time Morgan left Michigan had made up a two-point deficit and led by seven. Morgan gave up a foul to get Tracy Abrams a couple FTAs; the only other make in that sequence was a DJ Richardson jumper.
So… yeah, if you want to point to Morgan as the guy who subtly swung the game from extreme danger to comfort you go right ahead. At this point it's clear his ankle is still bothering him but Michigan needs him; hopefully that's a good sign for Michigan's chances down the stretch as he gets healthier. He is clearly a better option than anyone else when McGary isn't acting as a possession fountain. In this game, McGary wasn't, with just one OREB and a steal. In that case the hedge-and-respond game Morgan has going is something the other two guys can't match.
Minutes: an issue? Burke went his customary 39; Robinson and Hardaway had 36 each. Against Penn State(!) Burke went 39, Stauskas 34, Robinson 33. The debacle at MSU obscures what the numbers might have been in a game where Michigan was within 20 for big chunks of the second half; Burke went 40 in the OT game at Wisconsin with Stauskas at 39, Hardaway at 37, Robinson 33.
You get the idea. Michigan plays all starters except their five big minutes. Burke's minutes have been especially big. Is this going to catch up with Michigan come tourney time as Burke turns into a walking corpse?
As best as I can figure, it's not an issue. A lot of good teams ride their starters hard. Last year's final four featured Kansas (314th in bench minutes), Kentucky (323rd), Louisville (340th), and Ohio State (308th). Michigan's currently 328th in that stat, which is either "a troubling lack of depth" or "a ticket to the Final Four" depending on your half-empty/half-full status.
At 35 minutes a game Burke is 88th nationally and on another level from the other guys, who range from about 200th to about 400th in minutes averaged. He's not that far in front of the various point guards from last year's FF, though. UK's Marquis Teague and KU's Tyshawn Taylor averaged 33; Craft was at 32. Only Peyton Siva was a significant step back.
Last year's FF strongly suggests that the best teams in college basketball are heavily dependent on their starters and that PGs can handle minutes in the mid-30s without much problem. If Michigan goes out and Burke has an aberrantly bad game, his heavy minutes over the home stretch of the season will get a lot of blame. But he'll probably just have had a bad game.
First episode Walter White, part infinity. Beilein yo:
would you like to hear about covalent bonds they're super exciting (Upchurch)
Free throws! Michigan had some of them, and had most of them before a brief period of end-game fouling on which Burke was 3/4. (The previous possession ended with a Burke shooting foul but one after 35 seconds had expired—definitely not on purpose.) 17 is not a huge number, but after the last month or so where trips to the line have been beyond rare it's nice that Michigan can put together some FTAs even if they're against two of the hackiest teams in the league.
Rebounding lockdown. After a frustrating start in which Illinois picked up 6 offensive rebounds as they built a 21-13 lead, Michigan locked it down. After the first 12 minutes Michigan allowed two more OREBs and finished the game in a dead heat with the Illini on the boards. Still not great against one of the poorer rebounding teams in the league; we'll live with it.
There was a point at which I thought Nnanna Egwu had read the blog and was super mad about its season-long obsession with the fact that he can't grab a ball to save his life; this faded somewhat as the game progressed. We can add another 22 minutes without a defensive rebound to Sam McLaurin's ledger; the man is a miracle.